Visit any media outlet and you will undoubtedly encounter a full array of stories about Wells Fargo duping its customers into accounts they didn’t know about, didn’t want and potentially had no use for. The institutions’ obvious lapse in judgement is being blamed on low-level staff members, over 5,300 of which have subsequently been fired, while the head of that bank division walked away with over $125 million in severance! The actions perpetrated by Wells Fargo are outrageous and blatantly unethical. However, it raises the question, are all financial institutions the same? The answer is no and here’s why.
The term “Cross-sell” was defined by Wells Fargo as the number of products sold to the customer. They touted being industry-leaders in the metric, routinely selling six or more products and services to each customer. Strict quotas were imposed on staff to meet these numbers and staff members unable to do so were reportedly not treated well. While the bank said they were “putting the customers first,” in reality the customer’s needs, wants or desires were not part of the equation at all. The cross-selling was done to enhance the bank’s bottom line and ultimately their stock price. Ultimately, those that benefited from all of this were the shareholders and senior management of the bank, not the customers.
Contrast this with a member–owned, financial co-operative like Solarity Credit Union. Our “shareholders” are our members, therefore the temptation to financially benefit one group over the other is removed because they are one and the same! Of course, even as a not-for-profit organization Solarity still needs revenues that exceed expenses so we can invest in things such as new technology and improved services, as well as to maintain sufficient capital to meet our state and federal regulations. But, since our “owners” and “customers” are one in the same, we will always keep their best interests in mind. We do like to see our members use more of our services and become increasingly engaged with us. As a co-operative, it is imperative that our members participate with the organization. Doing so is beneficial to the co-op as a whole, including the individual member, but we keep our focus on what is best for the member, not what’s best for a small group of shareholders. Frankly, our products and services offer great value and if they fit the needs of the member, they should be made aware of that benefit. Our relationship with the member is based on first understanding the member’s financial situation, using that knowledge to anticipate what products or services will be beneficial for the member and then acting as a guide to assist them through the increasingly complex nature of financial decisions. In other words, it’s all about the member, not us.
With Solarity’s focus on serving the member’s needs and ensuring their financial success, there is never the need to force anyone into a product or service that isn’t needed or wanted. In fact, it would be a breach of trust for our team members to provide any product or service that wasn’t understood and approved by the member. Cross-selling isn’t relevant to us; long-term engagement and trust are the keys to enduring partnerships with our members. At Solarity Credit Union, we pledge to always put our member’s interests first.